Al-Jazeera America: Obama must halt raids on Central American refugee families

Ian Pajer-Rogers |

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From Al-Jazeera America:

by Lauren Carasik

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has launched aggressive raids on family homes targeting asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras who received final orders of removal. At least 121 people, including children, have been detained since the New Year’s weekend in the first large-scale deportations of refugees from Central America’s troubled Northern Triangle. The nationwide raids are sending waves of fear in an already vulnerable and terrorized population, many of whom suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression.

The targeted roundups follow a surge in the number of migrants crossing the Southwest border in recent months. At least 10,000 unaccompanied children from Central America migrated across the border in October and November alone. But deporting women and children fleeing mayhem and misery back to the perilous conditions they fled is misguided and inhumane. Most are refugees trying to escape horrific levels of gang and gender-related violence and are entitled to humanitarian protection, yet little is being done to protect their rights.  

The Barack Obama administration’s unrelenting efforts to turn refugees back have not deterred their inflow. More women and children are expected to flee in 2016 because they continue to be imperiled at home. Instead of cracking down on families, the U.S. should honor its domestic and international obligations to protect their rights, and re-orient its policies toward ameliorating the deplorable conditions in the Northern Triangle.

On Jan. 4, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson defended the raids as an effort to secure the U.S. border, touting “the largest deployment of vehicles, aircraft, boats, and equipment along the southwest border in the 90-year history of the Border Patrol.” But asylum seekers pose no threat to national security that warrants such an unprecedented deployment of resources. The renewed push appears to be in part a strategic gambit for Democrats eager to establish credibility on immigration enforcement, and to avoid a new surge of migrants next summer as the presidential election looms. 

Johnson insisted that “our borders are not open to illegal migration,” highlighting his misapprehension of the fact that refugees are legally entitled to present themselves at the border and seek protections, which Washington is bound to provide. However, the administration’s immigration procedures evince disregard for those rights.

Many of the migrants who received deportation orders were subjected to an accelerated court-hearing schedule dubbed “rocket dockets,” which often pose insurmountable hurdles for those who have legitimate claims. Legal representation would greatly enhance their chances of a favorable decision, but given the expedited process and the dearth of legal resources, few were represented by a competent attorney. Some were ordered removed in absentia even after DHS failed to provide them with adequate information, translation and notice about the hearings. The procedural flaws only intensify fear and mistrust, forcing migrants further into the shadows.

Read the full article from Al-Jazeera America.